But who are we? In other times we were called Hermaphrodites. For geneticists we are the ambiguous ones and for ourselves, we are all the people who genetically and/or physically are between male and female on the continuum of sex.

Up till recently we have been silent, relegated to the nothingness of shame, the status of freaks, we make up quite a large group of the population since one infant in a thousand is born with visibly atypical genitalia or with atypical chromosomes such as those born XXY or XXXY, etc. which account for approximately one in 700 births! (There are more than a hundred different genetic variations linked to X and Y chromosomes, some more rare than others).

Today, in France, under the pretext that parents would not be able to face raising a child that is neither a boy or a girl, intersex children as young as three months old are routinely subjected to mutilating surgeries to remove parts of their genitalia, their most intimate organs for sexual pleasure. (These mutilating practices are for example recommended by the pediatric psychiatrist Marcel Rufo in his work on "All you ever needed to know about the sexuality of your children".)

These mutilating surgeries are a violation of the child's human rights and whereas excision is a crime punishable by imprisonment, which should be the case, doctors still recommend and practice medical techniques which result in the castration of infants which, according to statistics, will lead to 30% of them committing suicide and with a large number who will undertake reassignment surgery to be able to live as the gender which is closer to the one they feel they are as opposed to the one which was imposed on them.

One of the reasons for these mutilating surgeries, in addition to the fact that our society refuses to reject the sex/gender binary which is more and more contested, is simply the legal necessity required by the state that all children be declared a boy or a girl. Throughout our life, we are continually faced with this morally violent outrage each time we have to fill out a governmental or business form by being forced to check male or female which does not include us.

Mutilated, deprived of our most intimate organs of pleasure, lied to about who we are throughout our childhood and living with shame, we no longer accept society's erasure and we are fighting in order to put an end to unnecessary mutilating medical practices that intersex infants are subjected to.

Vincent Guillot,
Spokesperson for Europe of the Organisation Intersex International (OII).
Translated from the French by Curtis Hinkle.

Put on line on 23/11/2005.

top of page

back to articles

back to English texts

back to intersex